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Timeline: Papua New Guinea

Timeline: Papua New Guinea



A chronology of key events

16th century AD - Ships from China and the Malay Empire trade with islanders.

Houses on stilts surrounding PNG capital Port Moresby
Port Moresby: Port town grew into a modern city
Named by British captain John Moresby after his father
Annexed by the British in 1883-84
Population (National Capital District): 254,000


1526 - Portuguese sailor Jorge de Meneses is the first European visitor. He names one of the islands "ilhas dos Papuas" or "land of fuzzy-haired people".

1546 - Spanish explorer Inigo Ortiz de Retes names the other main island New Guinea because the islanders resemble the people of Guinea in Africa.

1768 - French explorer Louis-Antoine de Bougainville lands at the islands during his circumnavigation of the world. Gives name to an island just to the east of New Guinea.

1873 - Port Moresby is named after one of several English explorers to lay claim to the island for Great Britain.

Europeans, Australians take control

1884 - Britain establishes a protectorate over south-east New Guinea, while Germany annexes the northern part of New Guinea.

1906 - Control of British New Guinea transferred to the newly independent Commonwealth of Australia and renamed Territory of Papua.

1914 - Australian forces occupy German New Guinea during World War I.

1921 - After the war the League of Nations grants Australia a mandate to run German New Guinea. This new Mandated Territory of New Guinea is governed totally separately from the Territory of Papua.

1933 - Gold-prospectors lead expeditions into the highlands. Here they find more than a million people living in fertile mountain valleys, their way of life apparently unchanged since the Stone Age.

1942 - Japanese forces occupy parts of both territories.


Julius Chan
Julius Chan: Former prime minister resigned amid mutiny and unrest

1949 July - Australia establishes a joint administration over both territories called the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.

1951 November - A 28-member Legislative Council established by Australia.

1954 June - Aerial survey reveals several previously undiscovered highland valleys inhabited by up to 100,000 people.

1961 March - First elections involving indigenous population.

1963 May - UN transfers control of West New Guinea to Indonesia. Today this region is called Papua.

1964 June - A 64-member House of Assembly replaces Legislative Council and for the first time indigenous representatives are elected to the majority of seats in the legislature.

1971 July - Renamed Papua New Guinea (PNG).

1973 February - Indonesia and PNG agree position of Irian Jaya border.

1973 December - Granted self-government. Michael Somare, chief minister in an interim coalition government, is sworn in as head of the governing Executive Council.

1975 April - New currency, the kina, replaces the Australian dollar.


1975 16 September - Attains full independence from Australia. Sir Michael Somare becomes PM.

1975 - Bougainville provincial government votes to secede from PNG. Somare's government retaliates by suspending the provincial government and withholding payments to the province.

1977 June-July - First parliamentary elections since independence.

Separatist struggle

1989 April/May - Separatist rebels on Bougainville begin prolonged armed struggle against the government. Secessionist, Francis Ona, proclaims "a republic of Bougainville". The recently-formed Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA), anxious about environmental destruction and unhappy that profits are leaving the island, forces the closure of the Australian-owned Panguna copper mine.

1994 - PM Sir Julius Chan signs agreement with several Bougainville secessionist leaders which provides a transitional administration in Bougainville. Bougainville Revolutionary Army leaders are not signatories; they continue to fight for full independence.


Separatist rebel on Bougainville
Thousands died in Bougainville's secessionist rebellion


1995 April - The Bougainville Transitional Government is sworn in under leadership of Theodore Miriong. The three seats reserved for the BRA remain vacant.

1996 - Theodore Miriong is assassinated at his home in south-west Bougainville. He is replaced by Gerard Sinato.

1997 February-March - Government hires mercenaries from Sandline International to support government troops in Bougainville, sparking an army mutiny and civil unrest. Prime Minister Chan is forced to resign.

1997 September - The government declares a national state of disaster following a prolonged drought thought to have been caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon. Over 1,000 people are killed and a further 1.2 million are put at risk of starvation.


1997 October - Burnham Truce marks the end of the decade-old armed struggle by Bougainville separatists.

1997 December - Countries in the region establish the Truce Monitoring Group to oversee compliance with the Burnham Truce until 30 April 1998 when a ceasefire is to be signed. The New Zealand-led group also comprises troops from Australia, Fiji and Vanuatu. All of them are unarmed.


Bill Skate, PM from 1997-99, died in 2006
Former PM Bill Skate helped to broker peace accord

1998 April - Permanent ceasefire signed in Bougainville by government representatives and secessionist leaders. Australian led Peace Monitoring Group takes over from Truce Monitoring Group.

1998 July - Three tsunamis - gigantic waves generated by earthquakes - hit the north-west coast obliterating villages and killing 3,000 people.

1998 August - United Nations establishes the UN Political Office in Bougainville at the request of the PNG government.

1999 1 January - Bougainville Reconciliation Government replaces the Bougainville Transitional Government. Former rebel leader Joseph Kabui and Gerard Sinato are nominated as co-leaders.

1999 May - Joseph Kabui elected president of the Bougainville People's Congress.

1999 December - John Momis sworn in as governor of Bougainville.

2000 November - Authorities say all 1,000 inhabitants of the Duke of York atoll will have to be relocated because the island is slowly sinking due to global warming.


Evacuated Matapit islanders watch Tavurvur volcano erupt, 2006
PNG lies on the "Ring of Fire", an area prone to volcanic eruptions

2001 August - Bougainville Peace Agreement, guaranteeing a referendum in 10 to 15 years on Bougainville's future political status, is signed in Arawa.

2002 August - Sir Michael Somare elected as prime minister for a third time.

2004 August - Australia deploys police to help fight rampant crime.

2004 December - Australian study warns that PNG is on course for social, economic collapse.

Bougainville autonomy

2005 May - Australia withdraws its police officers after the PNG Supreme Court rules that their deployment is unconstitutional.

Bougainville islanders elect their first autonomous government. Former separatist rebel Joseph Kabui becomes president.

2007 May - Parliament passes a law to allow casinos and online gambling. It is hoped that the activity could boost the economy.

2007 August - Sir Michael Somare elected as premier for second consecutive term.

2007 November - Cyclone Guba causes flooding which kills 163 and leaves more than 13,000 displaced in Oro and Milne provinces, according to the National Disaster Centre.

2008 June - Bougainville President Joseph Kabui dies.

2008 December - Former rebel James Tanis elected autonomous president of Bougainville.

2008 December - Huge tidal waves left hundreds homeless and raised fears of water-borne illness in the northern coastal region.

2009 July - Police are investigating a further series of sorcery-related killings in the remote Highlands. About 50 people were killed in sorcery-related attacks in 2008, and the government promised an inquiry in January 2009.

2009 May - Chinese-owned firms are looted in Port Moresby and the coastal city of Lae in an apparent sign of gorwing hostility towards Chinese immigrants.

2009 August - The country records its first outbreak of cholera, which killed 40 people in the northern province of Morobe.

2009 December - China signs a deal to import liquified natural gas from Papua New Guinea.

2010 December/January - Prime Minister Michael Somare steps down to face tribunal investigating claims of misconduct, returns to work the following month

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